FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Respect But No Fear
With the Spring marathon season drawing to a close, the 27th running of the
Haspa Marathon Hamburg on Sunday morning (29th) looks like giving further
impetus to the wholesale revision of winning times that has taken place
over the last couple of years. Where 2hr 6mins was once, even recently,
worthy of a whistle of surprise, it barely elicits a shrug of the shoulders
nowadays. Seven men have already gone under 2.05 this year. They are all,
inevitably Kenyan and Ethiopian, underlining that a virtual prerequisite
for success at long distance running is dependant on being born and raised
They are also largely unknown; as one veteran of social network sites
howled at the start of the year, 'there is a guy done 2.04 in Dubai I never
heard of'. Indeed! And that underlines the hunger for success among the
younger (and some not so young) generation of East African runners.
And so it is with the Hamburg field. This morning, Friday's press
conference featured Dadi Yami of Ethiopia, who went from a 2.11 debut in
the Netherlands last year to 2.05.41 in Dubai three months ago. Paul Biwott
of Kenya, on the other hand has run a dozen marathons, but at age 33, ran
2.06.54 in Amsterdam last year. The women's favourite, Robe Guta already
ran 2.24.35 on this course as a 19 year old, in 2006.
But the most important person here may yet prove to be the athletes'
manager, Jos Hermens, whose help (and company) has been enlisted to restore
Hamburg to the world top ten status it enjoyed a decade ago. The organisers
could not have consulted a better man.
The former Dutch international knows pretty much all there is to know about
distance running; he was a world record holder himself, setting a
'one-hour' record in the 1970s that lasted for 15 years; and when injuries
cut short his career, he graduated to management, and now runs one of the
most successful agencies in athletics, guiding among others luminaries like
multi-world record holders Haile Gebrseleassie and Kenenisa Bekele.
Hermens has put together what he calls a 'balanced field, of youth and
experience, with 13 or 14 guys capable of staying together, and working
towards new record. And there are plenty of dark horses, like (Abebe)
Dinkessa. I wasn't surprised when Dadi went from 2.11 to 2.05 inside a
year. These guys train together, and they'll suddenly go out and run a
fantastic time. Dinkessa's the same. He only did 2.14 in Dubai, but he
could easily do 2.05. And (Fikadu) Lemma as well. He could do 2.06, 2.05.
It's a new world out there in the marathon. These guys respect the
distance, but they've got no fear".
Dadi was born in a rural community just north of the Ethiopian capital
Addis Ababa, and a combination of poor records and the Ethiopian calendar
(it's currently 2004) means he doesn't know when he was born. His coach
reckons he is around 24 or 25. But Dadi does know he's in similar shape to
Dubai, and thinks he can do a similar time. Men's course record is 2.06.52,
by Spaniard Julio Rey, in 2006.
Biwott is just two seconds shy of that, and is the favourite of race chief,
Frank Thaleiser, who also said this morning, "Everything is working
perfectly so far. I've known Jos for 20 years, I know how he works, he
knows how we work. It's perfect harmony. I'd like to think we could have
three new records on Sunday, including the hand-bikers. The only thing I'm
afraid of is the wind, but the forecast is no wind".